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Helvetica (2007) Poster

(2007)

Quotes

Michael Bierut: It's The Real Thing. Period. Coke. Period. Any Questions? Of Course Not.

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Massimo Vignelli: You can say, "I love you," in Helvetica. And you can say it with Helvetica Extra Light if you want to be really fancy. Or you can say it with the Extra Bold if it's really intensive and passionate, you know, and it might work.

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Rick Poynor: Type is saying things to us all the time. Typefaces express a mood, an atmosphere. They give words a certain coloring.

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Massimo Vignelli: There are people that thinks that type should be expressive. They have a different point of view from mine.

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Wim Crouwel: The meaning is in the content of the text and not in the typeface, and that is why we loved Helvetica very much.

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Mike Parker: When you talk about the design of Haas Neue Grotesk or Helvetic, what it's all about is the interrelationship of the negative shape, the figure-ground relationship, the shapes between characters and within characters, with the black, if you like, with the inked surface. And the Swiss pay more attention to the background, so that the counters and the space between characters just hold the letters. I mean you can't imagine anything moving; it is so firm. It not a letter that bent to shape; it's a letter that lives in a powerful matrix of surrounding space. It's... oh, it's brilliant when it's done well.

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Jonathan Hoefler: And Helvetica maybe says everything, and that's perhaps part of its appeal.

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Tobias Frere-Jones: The sort of classical modernist line on how aware a reader should be of a typeface is that they shouldn't be aware of it at all. It should be this crystal goblet there to just hold and display and organize the information. But I don't think it's really quite as simple as that. I think even if they're not consciously aware of the typeface they're reading, they'll certainly be affected by it, the same way that an actor that's miscast in a role will affect someone's experience of a movie or play that they're watching. They'll still follow the plot, but, you know, be convinced or affected. I think typography is similar to that, where a designer choosing typefaces is essentially a casting director.

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Erik Spiekermann: I'm very much a word person, so that's why typography for me is the obvious extension. It just makes my words visible.

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Erik Spiekermann: It's air, you know. It's just there. There's no choice. You have to breathe, so you have to use Helvetica.

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Erik Spiekermann: I mean, everyone puts their history into their work.

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Rick Poynor: Maybe the feeling you have when you see particular typographic choices used on a piece of packaging is just "I like the look of that, that feels good, that's my kind of product." But that's the type casting its secret spell.

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Lars Müller: And I think I'm right calling Helvetica the perfume of the city. It is just something we don't notice usually but we would miss very much if it wouldn't be there.

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David Carson: Don't confuse legibility with communication. Just because something is legible doesn't mean it communicates and, more importantly, doesn't mean it communicates the right thing.

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Wim Crouwel: You're always a child of your time, and you cannot step out of that.

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David Carson: I have no formal training in my field. In my case I've never learned all the things I'm not supposed to do. I just did what made sense to me. I was just... experimenting, really. So when people started getting upset, I didn't really understand why, I said, "What's the big deal? What are you talking about?" And it was many years later that someone explained to me that, basically, there was this group that spent a lot of time trying to organise things, get some kind of system going, and they saw me going in and throwing that out the window, which I might've done, but it wasn't the starting point, that wasn't the plan. Only much later I learned what determines modernism, and this and that...

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David Carson: It's very hard to do the more subjective, interpretative stuff well. I can teach anyone from the street how to design a reasonable business card, newsletter, but if I bring the same group of the street in and play a CD and say, OK, let's interpret that music for a cover, well, 9 out of 10 people will be lost, and they're gonna do something really corny and expected, and one person's gonna do something amazing because that music spoke to them and it sent them in some direction where nobody else could go, and that's the area for me where it gets more interesting and exciting, and... more emotional, and that's where the best work comes from.

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[first lines]

Rick Poynor: Type is saying things to us all the time. Typefaces express a mood, an atmosphere. They give words a certain coloring.

Michael Bierut: Everywhere you look you see typefaces. But there's one you probably see more than any other one, and that's Helvetica. You know, there it is, and it seems to come from no where. You know, it seems like air? It seems like gravity?

Jonathan Hoefler: And it's hard to evaluate it. It's like being asked what you think about off-white paint. It's just... it's just there. And it's hard to get your head around, it's that big.

Erik Spiekermann: Most people who use Helvetica, use it because it's ubiquitous. It's like going to McDonald's instead of thinking about food. Because it's there, it's on every street corner, so let's eat crap because it's on the corner.

Michael C. Place: For me Helvetica is just this beautiful, timeless thing. And certain things shouldn't be messed with, you know?

Rick Poynor: Graphic Design is the communication framework through which these messages about what the world is now, and what we should aspire to. It's the way they reach us. The designer has an enormous responsibility. Those are the people, you know, putting their wires into our heads.

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Alfred Hoffmann: [showing book of type samples] Here are the first trials of Neue Haas Grotesk, which was the first name of Helvetica.

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Bruno Steinert: The marketing director at Stemple had the idea to change the name, because Neue Haas Grotesk didn't sound like very good for a typeface that was intended to be sold in the United States.

Alfred Hoffmann: Stemple suggested the name of Helvetia, this is very important. Helvetia is the Latin name of Switzerland. My father said, that's impossible, you cannot call a typeface after a name of a country. So, he said, why don't we call it Helve-ti-ca. So, in other words, this would be "the Swiss typeface". And they agreed.

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Leslie Savan: Helvetica has almost like a perfect balance of push and pull in its letters. And that perfect balance sort of is saying to us - well it's not sort of, it *is* saying to us - "don't worry, any of the problems that you're having, or the problems in the world, or problems getting through the subway, or finding a bathroom... all those problem aren't going to spill over, they'll be contained. And in fact, maybe they don't exist."

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Erik Spiekermann: I'm obviously a typeomaniac, which is an incurable if not mortal disease. I can't explain it. I just love, I just like looking at type. I just get a total kick out of it: they are my friends. Other people look at bottles of wine or whatever, or, you know, girls' bottoms. I get kicks out of looking at type. It's a little worrying, I admit, but it's a very nerdish thing to do.

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Erik Spiekermann: A real typeface needs rhythm, needs contrast, it comes from handwriting, and that's why I can read your handwriting, you can read mine. And I'm sure our handwriting is miles away from Helvetica or anything that would be considered legible, but we can read it, because there's a rhythm to it, there's a contrast to it. Helvetica hasn't got *any* of that.

Interviewer: Why, fifty years later, is it still so popular?

Erik Spiekermann: [sighs] Why is... bad taste ubiquitous?

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